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College Basketball Is Back In Indiana

Can the state get back to putting 5-6 teams in the NCAA Tournament.

Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

In 49 other states it's just basketball, but this is Indiana.

Last year was a disaster for that phrase. The state of Indiana only has 10 Division I programs, but it regularly sends several of them to the NCAA Tournament. The banner year was 2000, when Indiana, Purdue, Ball State, Valparaiso, Indiana State, and Butler all made the NCAA Tournament. Last year was the nadir, as no one went, and only IPFW, the only team that has never been among the ten, came close, losing the Summit League title game in the final seconds.

Well, the state seems to be back this year. Notre Dame is a virtual lock to make the NCAA Tournament. Indiana and Butler are in good shape. Evansville has an outside shot at an at large bid with only four losses, all by less than five points, so far, while Indiana State is 5-0 in the MVC. Purdue has a chance if it can take care of business in the Big Ten, while Valpo is doing well in the Horizon League.

Here is how the state's teams stack up:

1. Notre Dame Fighting Irish - 16-2, 4-1 ACC - NCAA Status: lock - Notre Dame is going to the tournament and they are playing for a very high seed from here on out. How high depends on how well they do against the likes of Virginia, Duke, Louisville, and the rest of the top of the ACC. Look for them to earn a top 4 protected seed and play close to home in either Columbus or Louisville.

2. Indiana Hoosiers - 13-4, 3-1 Big Ten - NCAA Status: Solid - The Hoosiers will be fine as long as they finish with a winning Big Ten record. That means 20 wins and with some nice non-conference wins over Butler and SMU their bad loss to Eastern Washington (which isn't that bad with EWU being No. 59 in the RPI) can be ignored. They would be in the tournament with a 6-10 seed pretty solidly if they get to 20 wins.

3. Butler Bulldogs - 13-5, 3-2 Big East - NCAA Status: Solid - Butler falls behind Indiana a bit because the Hoosiers won the head-to-head meeting, but they are still a good team in their own right. Beating North Carolina in the Bahamas is a very good win, as is Georgetown, whom they could end up playing four times (twice Big East regular season, once Big East tourney). They don't have a bad loss and have already won at Seton Hall and St. John's in Big East play. They'll be back in the tournament, as we should expect from the state's premier basketball school of the past 10 years.

4. Evansville Aces - 12-4, 3-2 MVC - NCAA Status: Work to do - The Aces haven't been dancing since 1999, but D.J. Balentine is playing like the MVC Player of the Year and has them right back in the discussion. Unfortunately, they have terrible luck in close games. They missed two last second shots in a 64-62 loss to Green Bay. They turned the ball over with a second left in an 81-79 loss to Murray State. Indiana State beat them 79-75 in overtime. Finally, Loyola-Chicago beat them 71-70 on a buzzer-beater. If they can win the MVC regular season title they could get an at large bid.

5. Purdue Boilermakers - 10-7, 2-2 Big Ten - NCAA Status: Work to do - We all know what Purdue needs to do. I like the commenter yesterday that viewed the 18-game Big Ten season as six three-game baseball series. If we win all six series, going 2-1, we'll be fine. So far we're down 0-1 in the second series, but we did win the first one 2-1. We'll know more in two days when we play at Penn State.

6. Indiana State Sycamores - 9-8, 5-0 MVC - NCAA Status: Better win the MVC - The mighty Trees were awful outside the conference, but have started MVC play on fire with five wins, including one over a ranked Northern Iowa team. They also beat Evansville and Illinois State, both in overtime, while playing a stronger non-conference that featured Illinois, Butler, Memphis, and St. Louis. Right now they lead the MVC along with Wichita State.

7. Valparaiso Crusaders - 16-3, 3-1 Horizon League - NCAA Status: Better win the Horizon League - Valpo is doing extremely well overall, but the RPI is only 94 because they had a weak non-conference schedule. The one major conference team they played was Missouri, who beat them 56-41. They lost a conference game in overtime to Oakland, but they are still a favorite to win the league. That would give them the conference tourney at home, but Green Bay is a strong team too at 14-3.

8. Ball State Cardinals - 7-7, 2-1 MAC - NCAA Status: Not likely - The Cards are up and down this year. They beat Indiana State but lost to IUPUI. Last night they dropped a heartbreaker to Western Michigan 95-93 in double OT at the buzzer. This was after trailing by five with five seconds left. They did beat Eastern Michigan, who did beat Michigan, at least. They also have a win over Central Michigan, who is 12-2 overall.

9. IPFW Mastodons - 8-9, 1-3 Summit League - NCAA Status: Should have gone last year - The ‘dons look like they missed their window last season.  They have already started only 1-3 in the Summit League without playing North Dakota State or Oral Roberts. They are also winless against Indiana, losing to Purdue, Valpo, and IUPUI.

10. IUPUI Jaguars - 6-12, 2-2 Summit League - NCA A Status: Nope - The Jags are one of the lowest scoring teams in the country, but they at least won two of their first three conference games and took Oral Roberts to overtime. Jason Gardner will have this program playing well soon, but not this year.

Best Case Scenario:

Notre Dame, Indiana, and Butler all easily make it as at large teams. Purdue goes 12-6 in the B1G, wins two conference tourney games, and also gets in. Evansville wins the MVC regular season title and gets an at large, while Indiana State stays hot and wins the conference tournament. Valpo wins the Horizon League.